Friday, February 13, 2009

Featured Writer: Julie Buffaloe-Yoder Day 1

Aunt Aggie and The Alligators

Aunt Aggie never had babies.
She had alligators
that floated under leaf wet logs.
She had a mud brushed shack
beside a slow moving river
downwind of Ocketawna Swamp.
She had boxes of fossils
on her kitchen counters.
Six foot long rattlesnake skins
hung as decorations
on her front porch.

Half Cherokee, half Irish,
Aunt Aggie had one brown eye
and one blue; she had two
bright silver braids that swung
past her ass when she danced.
Aunt Aggie smelled like cypress,
muddy boots and fresh mint tea.
Her hands were as loving tough
as summer collard leaves.

Aunt Aggie had no neighbors.
She had a Smith and Wesson
and ninety six root thick acres.
She had record breaking reptiles
who turned over her trash barrel
in the lapping heat
of those thick cricket nights.
She had the faded yellow skies
of August hurricanes,
not too many water bugs,
mildewed faces growing
on her window screens,
and every knick knack
Woolworth’s ever sold.

Each spring at dawn on the edge
of the riverbank, Aunt Aggie threw
leftovers, buckets of fish guts,
and rotten fruit in mossy holes
where the gators waited
for her to call them by name:
Miss Eula Belle!
Matthew-Mark-Luke and John!
Josiah Ezekiel Twain!
Old Slow Moon!
Little Bitty!

During mating season she crouched
waist deep in swamp to watch
the big ones make the water dance;
kept a two-by-four held tight in case
the young ones should try to get fresh.

Aunt Aggie had a fit that stormy day
when relatives explained the papers
that came in the mail from The State:
Eminent Domain.

They said maybe she should take
the money they offered.
Find a nice retirement home.

Everybody thought Aunt Aggie
would shoot the lawyers
and the politicians
and the real estate developers
and the police in their fat heads.
Instead, she cut all her silver hair
and let it float down the river
with the moon of the green corn.

They found Aunt Aggie the next week
curled up and brown on her porch.
The biggest gator next to her, eating
fish heads, bread and moldy cheese.
Aunt Aggie’s last supper
before her babies were put to sleep.

Snake Handling

They call him Rattlesnake,

a row of diamonds

sliced across his back

in a bar room brawl.

All the girls say he is

the best thing to curl up

on their hot back porches

since before the devil’s fall.

They say he’s so pretty

like slant-eyed danger

wrapped in gold-brown skin,

muscles the size of sin—

he smells like a man, damnit.

This laying on of hands

fathers do not understand,

this power to tread through

tall grass, groping under

the dark side of logs,

searching for an answer.

When they dare to hold him,

they shed their old souls

and are born again

beneath a thrill of stars,

dancing to the rhythm

of the rock of ages.

Speaking unknown tongues,

that ticking crescendo

of dry pinestraw is alive

like tambourines of fire.

Like strychnine shooting

through a country girl’s veins.

The sting might not kill

but it makes them feel

like it will, and even if

they swell, they don’t

give a damn—they say

it’s better than Heaven.

I've had work published in Side of Grits, storySouth, Clapboard House, The Wilmington Review, A Carolina Literary Companion, Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal, Calyx: A Journal of Art and Literature by Women, Grain, and Pemmican.


Poetikat said...

Julie, the more I read your work, the more I want to read. You take me to worlds, unfamiliar yet intoxicating and tantalizing.
"Aunt Aggie and The Alligators" makes me think of N'Orleans and the bayou. (Do you know a song by the Be Good Tanyas, called "Lakes of Pontchartrain"?
"Snake Handling" reminds me of all those bad boys you had no business messin' with, but you couldn't help yourself from doin' it.

Great stuff - so evocative and so gritty and real!

Kat Mortensen

christopher said...

You read so good I want to move to the swamps. But if you found me dead on my porch down there with a gator beside me, I fear it would be me half eaten.

This is a good site.

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Julie, you have a way of capturing that southern experience and allowing it to seep into every word and phrase of your poetry. Aunt Aggie is, in my estimation, a good example of Southern Gothic writing style.

You have not disappointed with Snake Handling. You are always true to the cultural character of the American South. Well done, my friend! Both are fantastic!

Julie said...

Hey, y'all. Thanks so much. Kat, you made me laugh, because I have heard the song. And then I heard a punk rendition by a bar band (can't remember who) somewhere in the 80's. That's why I reminds me of your music man.

Christopher, you'd make tater salad out of that gator! You know I love you, dude. Yes, please stick around to check out this awesome site.

K., thank you so much. You're awesome. And thank you, Crys, for the exciting opportunity to be here. I'll shut up for now...ha! But I will stick around to read more.

Jo said...

Truly you're one of the best poets I read, from the big names down. Excellent, excellent work.